Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz
Built with esteem from the cast to the camera, director Paolo Sorrentino has a knack for communicating an idea in beautiful and complete way. With Youth, the Italian auteur adds his visionary touch to a simple tale of growing up.
Michael Caine stars as Fred Ballinger, a heralded composer who's own life decisions have altered his ability to live in any type of self-congratulatory state. When a royal representative visits him at a resort in the Alps to patiently ask him to accept the Queen's invitation to perform for Prince Phillip's birthday, the musician politely (for lack of a better term) declines, citing personal reasons. Mixing and mingling with other resort guests, including his best friend and filmmaker Mick Boyel (Harvey Keitel) and his daughter (Rachel Weisz), Ballinger discovers life is all about discovery and you're never too old to learn a lesson.
Palpable in its simplest terms, the magic of Youth's message is that it isn't spelled out in schmaltzy, heartwarming package. Beauty is found in its most raw form, mostly thanks to the stunning visuals pieced together by Sorrentino.
Caine offers his greatest and most intuitive performance in years as the emotional troubled, but solemnly strong Ballinger. As he adapts his own insecurities and self-loathings, his struggles to maintain a balanced life are so effortlessly displayed. The dynamic between Caine and Weisz as father and daughter is heartbreakingly rich.
Supported by a brilliant script, Youth is also a testament to unique, modern filmmaking, with each and every facet offering something divine. There are moments when the structure feels a little obtuse, but that only serves to maximize the instability in life's journey. While it may seem that, as people age, life only gets easier, Youth shows that your demons can still haunt you if you never mature enough to deal with them.
Sorrentino's greatest strength is the glamor he draws into each moment, whether that's through a perfectly packaged cinematic view or a perfectly timed performance, such as the small, but crucial turn by Jane Fonda as Brenda Morel, an aged actress who gives Keitel's Boyel a lasting life lesson. She demands the screen in a way only a legend could, earning her spot as one of the film's most memorable moments. Perhaps, even, she'll see Oscar attention, similar to Judi Dench's small, award-winning role in Shakespeare in Love.
Paul Dano, playing Jimmy Tree, a movie star who finds his personal wants to be the opposite for what he's known, serves as the bridge from career-beginnings to Ballinger's retired composer. When Miss Universe visits the resort and gushes over how much she loves Tree's performance in a popular robot movie, he shuts her down in a meandering holier-than-thou moment, commenting on her lack of culture and taste. But, she turns the tables, putting the blame on him for allowing himself to not be proud of the work he's done. It's a great bit of life realization, coming from the place these characters would never expect.
A denouement so enriching with sentiment can generally be written off as pulling for heartstrings. Even in its most touching moments, Youth never dips into masked sincerity, allowing realness and genuine heart take center stage.
It isn't a film about aging as much as it's a film about how life and growing up never really ends. Possibilities for new ambitions are always present. The greatest part of learning is figuring out how to take them by the horns.
Runtime: 2h 4min